Method, Not Madness

halloween-003Along about dusk, they creep from the sidewalk. Witches, ghosts, and goblins travel noisily to our door and knock, all toting a sack or plastic bucket. 

“Trick or treat!”  

We drop this year’s offering into their containers and with muffled thanks, they trek off to the next home. Behind them come more—Minions, Star Wars characters and the fairy tale crowd—drawn like moths to a flame.

 At least I hope the candle in our pumpkin still burns.

 People ask me why we still carve a pumpkin. My children are grown, they don’t trick or treat, and the labor of transforming the large, orange orb is no small feat.

 But I have an ulterior motive.

 I plan to stuff the pumpkin into jars when the day is through. Keeping the carving tradition alive saves me hours of work.

 My adult children bring me the annual harvest gourd about two days before Halloween. They enjoy each other’s company, so they sit out on the patio, sharpened knives and old spoons in hand. They transform the plump round sphere into something scary with a face. When finished, they plop it on my front step, stick in a candle, and wait to light it for the children who will come.

Most of the hard work is done. No pulp to pull, seeds to scrape, or goo to clean.

The following day I slice up the remaining flesh, steam it until it is soft, and ram the wedges into jars for the canner. Forty minutes later I have homemade pumpkin ready for pies, bread, muffins or whatever. I feel like a queen and my willing laborers don’t suspect a thing.

Nor will I tell them. And neither will you.

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Secrets Secret

 

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I once shared confidential information with a woman I trusted and within two weeks those private facts came back to me through the mouth of a mutual acquaintance. As more and more details surfaced here and there, I realized my mistake. I couldn’t trust the woman as a friend and reduced our relationship to one of hello and goodbye.

Keeping information secret has made the national news in recent weeks. A scientist purported to be a spy for a secret agency was executed by his government after his identity was leaked through sloppy handling of classified materials. The FBI was said to be upset when more private details about the operation of our country was broadcast to millions of viewers on national television. Though I can’t prove or disprove these facts, it does make me wonder how many people have been harmed through the careless management of sensitive material. Who has died to satisfy the selfish ambitions of another?

In Leviticus 19:16 (NIV) we are told not to go about spreading rumors about others. “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. “ Putting someone in harm’s way because of your inability to remain silent is clearly in opposition to God’s perfect plan.

In Proverbs 11:13 (NIV) God calls the talebearer a gossip. “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

Proverbs 26:22 (KJV) warns of the consequences. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

Are you a faithful friend? If someone says, don’t share this, do you keep their confidence? People’s lives are not always open books. Can another count on you to protect their private news?

If you are dependable, God will count you as a true friend—one who loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17). What greater blessing is there than that?

Plunger or Snake?”

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“The toilet’s not flushing right.”

The quiet morning evaporated in an instant. My hard-of-hearing husband heard the words “toilet” and “flushing” and sprang from his chair. “Did the water go all over the floor?”

Like an operative on a special mission, he strode to the offending appliance. After several minutes pushing the handle down and watching the water rise, he looked at me. “The toilet’s not flushing right.”

Yup.

He left the scene to gather his equipment, jaw set, shoulders squared. I’d been down this road before.

I grew up in a family of plungers. You know the device—a red rubber bowl mounted on a handle. Apply the bowl over the hole and push. Physics takes over as the water must move under the pressure of the inverting rubber cover. Within a few plunges, the toilet clears and the water flows. I don’t remember ever having to call a plumber to fix a clogged system.

Somewhere in his job as a lineman for the county, my husband developed an affinity for snakes. Not the squiggly ones who scare you in the grass, but those long, silver coils that hook onto a handheld drill (man’s favorite tool) and wind their way into the unknown. Once they find their target they wind their way back, often bringing part of the problem with them.

Disgusting.

My husband worked the snake several minutes, but without success. “Something’s wrong inside,” he said, tapping the toilet. “I think a piece got into the system and is blocking the snake.”

I doubt if it’s porcelain, darling.

Not long after, he left and returned with the hand truck. Yep….the hand truck. He had disassembled the toilet and was hauling it outside. “Found the problem. Obstruction at the base.”

He wasn’t kidding.

While he worked on flushing the appliance outside, I turned to the wall inside. Mildew had formed behind the toilet and I proceeded to clean it. He returned with a paint brush and mildew-resistant paint. I steam-cleaned the floor and once he had the toilet re-installed, I sanitized the bathroom.

I can’t say the day was wasted. We had new paint, a renewed toilet, and an experience not soon to be forgotten.

Still, I wonder what a plunger might have done.

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A Day in the Life of an Artist

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My daughter’s company, Critter Corner Cards, released its newest annual calendar this week, On Wings of Eagles, Isaiah 40:31. The calendar includes thirteen hand-drawn images of birds from around the world in colorful prism pastels.

People ask me how these calendars are different.

Unlike something you find at a discount store, where a dozen photographs have been printed a million times, collated with dates of the month, and then sold for almost nothing because there are so many of them, these hand-drawn calendars represent weeks of effort.

The images in the Eagles calendar require gathering pictures of the birds and their habitats, composing a grouping of each bird, and adding character with colored pencil and shading technique. Each individual finished 11 x 17 composition can take a week, sometimes two, to finish.

Like anyone who studies the arts, Rachel makes daily practice a prerequisite. Ask any dancer, painter, or writer and they will tell you the same. Perfection is an ongoing process. You never quite “arrive” because you daily add to your skill.

The Process  

The end product begins at the computer, researching the animal, finding habitats, and selecting the right photo or set of photos to group together.

A picture begins

A picture begins

Once selected, Rachel meets with her long time mentor and friend, Meredith, with whom she has been drawing for more than a decade. Together they each compose a picture from the images Rachel has chosen and compare techniques as they work toward a finished product. The ninety minute consultation sets the project in motion.

From there the picture is returned to Rachel’s desk where she fine-tunes her images, decides on what plants and background elements to add, and then proceeds to add the color. Her desk is never without a project in progress.

A drawing in process

A drawing in process

Fine-tuning her background

Fine-tuning her background

 

At week’s end, the completed drawing is placed in a waiting box to be scanned for consideration for next year’s calendar.

This year’s calendar represents thirteen weeks of planning, drawing, and compiling to bring her customers a one-of-a-kind calendar. Her customers are my heroes because they are helping support a young woman with a disability follow her passion and make her imprint on the world.

See her offerings at www.crittercornercards.com.

Back cover 2017

Back cover 2017

Run the Race to Win

batomOur local symphony launched its 2016-17 season recently, treating its audience to a rendition of Brahms’ sweeping Fourth Symphony, an orchestra piece the current conductor has waited to do since he began his term seven years earlier. The conductor will finish his contract with our local company this year and the audience will participate in helping select the successor at concerts to follow in coming months.

This conductor has done well here and my family has enjoyed the variety of musical flavors through which he has led the orchestra. On this first evening of his last season he added a passacaglia by Webern—a 17th century dance accompanied by a repeated bass line that the composer mastered and took to an orchestral level of dizzying intensity. A Schuman Concerto followed which featured a local cellist Joshua Roman. The program closed with the work by Brahms.

I’ve not before witnessed the selection process by which a new conductor is chosen. According to the president of the board of directors, beginning last March applications from more than two hundred and fifty candidates from forty-four countries and thirty-four states were reviewed. References had to be checked, videos viewed, and phone interviews conducted.

The twelve-person committee selected nine semi-finalists from that massive pool of applicants, invited them to visit and conduct a rehearsal reading with an orchestral chamber ensemble during the summer.

Now the audience will be asked to evaluate the three finalists as they conduct the orchestra during regular ticketed performances in the next several months. The entire process sounds exhausting to me. I can only imagine the trepidations of the candidates as they prepare to impress us, eager for the baton to be passed to them.

In similar fashion God wants us to live our faith with the same kind of endurance these orchestral candidates followed. We are to be aware of those around us, ready to be an example to those who haven’t yet found the saving grace we understand. We are to press on, ready to receive the prize.

I Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize.”

Then when we appear before him at the door of eternity, we can look forward to his words, “Well  done, thou good and faithful servant.” We will have achieved God’s baton.